March 7, 2013 / 6:27 AM / 5 years ago

Europe Factors to Watch-Shares set to edge up ahead of ECB, BoE

PARIS, March 7 (Reuters) - European stocks are set to edge up on Thursday,
hovering around multi-year highs hit in the previous session, although gains
could be limited ahead of the European Central Bank's policy meeting.
    At 0725 GMT, futures for Euro STOXX 50, for Germany's DAX 
and for France's CAC were up 0.1-0.2 percent.
    The ECB and the Bank of England both meet on Thursday. The ECB is expected
to hold its interest rates at a record-low 0.75 percent, and investors will be
seeking clues about whether the euro zone's central bank is moving towards
another cut in interest rates. 
    "Clearly the recent price action is suggestive of a market that sees
downside risks to the bank's forecasts and thus expect (ECB President) Mario
Draghi to change his language, effectively signalling a rate cut," IG market
strategist Stan Shamu wrote in a note.
    The Bank of England is expected to give details about where its priorities
for reviving Britain's struggling economy lie, with opinion split evenly on
whether it will unveil another round of bond buying. 
    As expected, the Bank of Japan kept monetary policy unchanged on Thursday,
and analysts expect new stimulus measures to come at the BOJ's next meeting in
early April, when Asian Development Bank President Haruhiko Kuroda, a vocal
advocate of aggressive easing, is expected to have taken over as governor of the
central bank. 
    Portugal will be in focus on Thursday after Standard & Poor's revised its
outlook on the country's BB/B sovereign ratings to 'stable' from 'negative',
citing fresh evidence that European institutions will continue to support
Portugal's efforts to clean up its finances.
    Investors will keep an eye on Spain's government bond sale, with the country
set to auction up to 5 billion euros of debt. Results are due at around 0940
GMT.
    The FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares hit its highest
since the 2008 collapse of U.S. bank Lehman Brothers around midday on Wednesday,
before losing ground in late trade as investors booked a portion of the recent
lofty gains.
    The FTSEurofirst 300's rise to a multi-year high mirrored a similar move by
the Dow Jones industrial average this week, with Wall Street's blue-chip
index hitting an all-time high.
    By comparison, the euro zone's blue chip Euro STOXX 50 index,
hammered in the past few years by the region's sovereign debt crisis, still
needs to double to reach its record high hit in 2000.
    
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 MARKET SNAPSHOT AT 0718 GMT                            
                                         LAST  PCT CHG  NET CHG
 S&P 500                             1,541.46   0.11 %     1.67
 NIKKEI                             11,968.08    0.3 %    35.81
 MSCI ASIA EX-JP                       552.63  -0.44 %    -2.45
 EUR/USD                               1.2991    0.2 %   0.0026
 USD/JPY                                93.93  -0.14 %  -0.1300
 10-YR US TSY YLD                       1.929       --    -0.01
 10-YR BUND YLD                         1.457       --     0.00
 SPOT GOLD                          $1,583.50   0.01 %    $0.19
 US CRUDE                              $90.36  -0.08 %    -0.07
 
  > GLOBAL MARKETS-Asian shares fall after rally, c.banks in focus 
  > Dow ends at another record high, S&P up on job picture 
  > Tokyo's Nikkei share average closes up 0.30 pct 
  > TREASURIES-U.S. 10-year notes edge up in Asia but gains limited 
  > FOREX-Dollar powers ahead on job hopes, sterling falters 
  > PRECIOUS-Gold struggles to pierce range, US growth hopes weigh 
  > METALS-Copper near 3-month low on few buys, strong dollar 
  > Brent below $111; ECB meeting, econ data in focus 
    
    COMPANY NEWS:
    
    CARREFOUR 
    Europe's biggest retailer said it would boost capital spending this year to
revive its struggling hypermarkets after 2012 profits fell 2.6 percent,
depressed by falling demand in recession-hit Spain and Italy. 
    
    JCDECAUX  
    The outdoor advertising specialist predicted its organic growth would
decline slightly in the first quarter because of weak demand in Europe after
posting full-year results slightly ahead of expectations. 
    
    AVIVA 
    Britain's second-biggest insurer cut its dividend by over a quarter to
provide extra funds for a turnaround strategy aimed at bolstering capital and
profit. 
    
    MERCK 
    German drugs and chemicals maker surpassed expectations for quarterly
earnings, helped by job cuts and strong demand from China for its liquid
crystals for televisions. 
    
    HANNOVER RE 
    The reinsurer expects 2013 net income to drop some 7 percent to around 800
million euros ($1 billion) after posting a better-than-expected bottom line for
2012. 

    MONTE PASCHI SIENA 
    The spokesman of Monte Paschi di Siena, the Italian bank at the center of an
investigation into alleged corruption and fraud, was found dead at the bank's
Siena headquarters, a judicial source and a banking source told Reuters on
Wednesday. 
    
    POPULAR, SABADELL 
    North American and Spanish banks are lining up to bid on City National Bank
of Florida over the next few days, according to sources familiar with the
situation. Banks that are expecting to bid include Canadian bank TD Bank,
Winston-Salem, North Carolina-based BB&T Corp, Pittsburgh-based PNC Financial
Services Group as well as Spanish banks Banco Sabadell and Banco Popular.
 
    
    PORSCHE 
    Porsche Automobil Holding SE said 12 hedge funds have decided to drop out of
a U.S. lawsuit accusing the German automaker of causing them losses by
fraudulently cornering the market for Volkswagen AG shares. 
    
    JCDECAUX  
    The outdoor advertising specialist predicted its organic growth would
decline slightly in the first quarter because of weakness in European demand.
 
    
    CLUB MED 
    The holiday group posted first-quarter sales down 2.5 percent to 344 million
euros as the environment worsened over the winter, but said it saw a rise in
bookings for the summer. 
    
    NOVARTIS 
    Britain's health cost-effectivness watchdog NICE said it planned to
recommend the use of Novartis's severe asthma drug Xolair after prevaricating
for months over whether it should be paid for on the taxpayer-funded National
Health Service (NHS).
    
    SANDVIK 
    The Swedish mining gear and tool maker said after the close of market
trading in Stockholm on Wednesday that it had agreed to acquire CUBEX, a
Canadian drilling solutions provider which had sales of about 270 million
Swedish crowns ($42.15 million) last year and has about 110 employees.

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